Monday, December 30, 2013

Yet another insight into my (candy loving) soul...

You guys love it when I tell you (crazy) stuff that I think sometimes, right?

Well... hold on to your hat, because this is good.

Have I ever told you how much I love salt water taffy? ... Because I do love it. A lot. (I blame/thank my Grandma Evans for this. She always had pockets filled with the stuff, and would give us a taffy any/every time we'd hug her and tell her we loved her. We all know that I have a heck of a lot of love to give without a candy reward. You can imagine, I am sure, how lovey-dovey I can be when there's a piece of candy (or 27) in it for me.)

Anyhoo... I love taffy. A lot.

And one of my *five favorite flavors is the peppermint kind.

I seriously love peppermint taffy. (This won't come as a surprise to anyone who's ever seen me scarf down a box of Junior Mints, a bag of York Peppermint Patties, a candy cane (or four), the peppermint/white chocolate M&M's, or anything of the like.)

Like I said, I love it. A lot.

So much so, that as I just popped my third peppermint taffy into my mouth, I actually thought "I love eating this candy. It's better than brushing my teeth!"

... True story.

And then I remembered that WE BRUSH OUR TEETH TO GET RID OF THE SUGAR THAT CANDY LEAVES BEHIND. So much for just eating peppermint candy and not brushing my teeth before I go to bed. (Sometimes I really hate being a grown up.)

*Just in case you're ever wont to hand-pick a pound of salt water taffy and send it my way, my other four favorite flavors are: black licorice, orange, root beer float, pina colada, and grape. (Also, I'm going to include an honorable mention of egg nog -- it'd make the top five, but it's seasonal, so it's not always available.)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

God Bless Us, Every One!

I re-read A Christmas Carol on the flight home from Utah on Monday. By the time I got to the final chapter, I wasn't on the plane anymore. Rather, I was in a land all my own, sitting in a bedroom created by Charles Dickens, over a hundred years ago. The first (and last) few sentences in the last chapter say it all. (Italics added for emphasis)

The End of It

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the time before him was his own, to make amends in!

``I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!'' Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ``The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!''

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.

``They are not torn down,'' cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, ``they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here: I am here: the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!''

His hands were busy with his garments all this time: turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.

``I don't know what to do!'' cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laoco├Ân of himself with his stockings. ``I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to every-body! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!'

Anyone who knows the story knows that after Scrooge got dressed, he went outside and asked a boy what day it was. ("Today? Why, Christmas Day!") And then he sent for the biggest turkey in the shop and had it sent to Bob Cratchit's, and he met with a gentleman collecting for charity and gave a huge donation ("including a great many back payments"), and then he set out for his nephew's house for Christmas dinner. The next day, when Cratchit got to work, Scrooge sat him down and told him that he needed to make amends, that he was going to give Bob a raise and help him with his struggling family.

Scrooge was a changed man.

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

May we all be better than our words, have laughing hearts, and know how to keep Christmas well. Not just today, but every day.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Christmas *Adam!

*Because Adam came before Eve. (Can you tell I've been spending a lot of time this weekend with small children?)

On a more serious note... A few of you have asked if there's anything you can do to help my sweet cousin and her adorable family.

It's a little late to be getting this up, but... I figure it's better late than never, right?

The family has set up a PayPal donation site to help Mark and Rachel with Christmas (and other costs). Click here to go straight to the site. If for some reason the link doesn't work, you can always click on the Cancer Girl Donation Center icon on the blog (upper right corner). Any funds that I receive through until January 1, I'll transfer to Rachel.

Thanks, all, for your thoughts and your prayers on behalf of my cousin. 

Much love (even more than normal, because it's Christmastime!) to each and every one!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

So... I've been MIA. Again.

As you may have noticed, it's been a while since I've posted. (Assuming you're not all too busy with your own lives to be looking for an update.) I haven't even done True Stories this month! (It's killing me, too, because I had some seriously rockin' stories about Evans family  Christmases. Picture the Griswold family tree hunt in the first scene of Christmas Vacation, taken up a notch because, instead of a trusty station wagon that could take a flying leap off the highway and still keep on ticking, I grew up with a suburban that was wont to break down on the side of the road -- for no apparent reason. We always traveled with hairspray in the car, because Dad had learned that if he sprayed some under the hood, it would start right up. ... You can't make this stuff up, kids.)

But alas, it seems that my laptop has bit (bitten?) the dust. Again. ... And we all know that blogging from ye olde phone doesn't always work so well. So, I haven't been online so often.

I'm going to make an honest effort to be better... More than anything else, I wanted to throw a post up as a caveat to explain why a) you hadn't been seeing anything lately and b) to let you know why there's going to be an uptick in typos 'round here.

So all the only electronic device I have with which I can blog is my phone. ...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A plea for prayer

As my sweet cousin Rachel put it, "Mark needs your help".

Mark is a heck of a guy. He's a fabulous friend, and incredible husband, and exactly the kind of father I'd want my children to have. (And I'm NOT just saying that because he has the cancer. I've been saying those things for years, and that's so much of why his getting sick has been so gosh darn difficult to swallow.)

Please, if you are willing and able, join our family in fasting and prayer for my cousin.

I know, personally and intimately, the overwhelming feeling of support and love that comes of an army praying for you. (Thanks for that, btw. You people are awesome, and I love you!) I know miracles happen. I know that faith can move mountains. I know that love is the most powerful force on earth. I know that prayer can make a difference.

Please. Please, pray with us. Mark needs your help.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


I can't tell you how awesome it is to know that the bulge in my stomach really is just my guts trying to come out through my bellybutton.

Seriously. It's awesome.

I woke up last night in the middle of the night because I was thirsty. That's it. Just thirsty.

No bad dream. No anxiety. No nausea. No headache. No panic attack. No crying. No hysteria. No need to get out of bed and make a list of all the things I'd need to do, the people I'd need to contact, if the PET was positive for new growth.

Just thirsty.

I'd never been so happy to get out of bed at 3:00 AM for a glass of water in all of  my life.

Of course, one of the effects of the release of all the stress that scan week makes me carry around is that I'm tired. As in, dog tired. I cannot get enough sleep and I'm completely worn out. (Maybe because I keep interrupting my own REM, waking up because I'm thirsty or something? ... Just kidding.)

Anyway, I'm relieved. And happy. So, so happy.

I've been cancer-free for 18 months now. I'm only one check up (since we moved my PET scans to every 6 months, so as to appease the insurance company) away from having been cancer-free as long as I ever was sick.

I cannot tell you the down-deep joy this brings me. My goodness, I'm so grateful for modern medicine - for the men (multiple) who've saved my life. I am the luckiest person I know.

(Oh, and... something fun I learned yesterday when I was blogging from the cancer center, between appts with H and G... typos abound when I'm using my phone keyboard. So sorry about that. I just wanted to get the information out as soon as I possibly could. ... And the typos (at least, the obvious ones) have been fixed now. All is right with the universe once again.)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Live Reporting from MD Anderson

Streaming live, I bring you the news from the office shared by H and G: The  PET shows I'm still cancer-free.


Merry Christmas to me!

I was able to con an actual  hug from Homsi (double Merry Christmas to me!), and while I told him that I am NOT going to invite him to Sunday dinner anymore (he's told me no twice), I'd be happy to be his escort through the Gilbert temple open house. (He's thinking of holding a reality show where he chooses his temple escort/date through a series of rose ceremonies. He told me I'd have to participate as a contestant, but he could tell me that I'd start pretty high on the chain.)

Henry will be sticking around for a while. I'm on a doctor-ordered Spanx routine again. G wants me to try some lifestyle modifications (including wearing a binder and/or supportive underwear), to see if that helps with pain. While he COULD cut Henry out of me, it's not a surgery without its risks... so he wants to put it off as long as possible. G did recommend that I find a physical therapist/masseuse to help with my weird charlie horse pain under my left ribs. I'm hoping against hope that I'll be able to come back to Lee here at MD.

So, no cancer. Yay! But I'm keeping Henry for the next several months. ... Good thing I already decided to be friends with him, eh?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

So... Scan Day

So, I thought it might be fun to do a little virtual tour of the prep for my PET scan. (Also, I happened to ask EXACTLY the right person if I could take pics today. Not only did she say yes, she purposefully posed the tube o' poison, for your optimum enjoyment.)

I apologize upfront that I neglected to snap a pic of the super cozy "recliner" where I get to nap for an hour after being injected with the tracer. I also didn't think to snap a pic of the PET machine. My bad(s). Next time.

Okay, so... this is the Injection Room. AKA: The Radiation Chamber (if you read my fb posts). This is the room where they inject me with radioactive matter, and then leave me in solitary to brew for a good hour or so before they put me in the PET chamber.

Once I get into the room, there is this HUGE glaring caution sign. (Good news I'm NEVER pregnant when I go in for my PET.)

I did ask, once, what would happen  if I was pregnant. Answer: the PET would not happen. There are too many risks to the fetus. The hospital may still do a diagnositc test, once the pregnant woman knows the risks, but the techs at MD have the right to refuse. And Dave the PET Guy will always refuse. (I like Dave.)

This is the locked container that my radioactive tracer comes in. Note the hazmat signs all over the box. (I love my life.)

And this, my lovelies, is the tracer itself. The push this radioactive matter (see the yellow hazmat sign at the top of the canister) through an IV, and then wrap me up in blankets, turn down the lights, and leave me to marinate in radioactive juices before actually running the scan. (I'd like to report that I only got stuck twice today. Mind you, the stick that took was in my wrist and HURT LIKE THE DEVIL - be looking forward to pictures of the bruise, it's gonna be a beaut! - but at least I only got stuck twice.)

This is the trash can that the waste goes into. Pretty crazy, no?

After an hour of sitting very still/sleeping in solitary, they come and wake me up and take me for the PET itself. But first... we make a pit stop.

That's right. At the HOT restroom. ... How special is it that there's a restroom set aside solely for the use of those of us who're packing radiation in our bowels/bladders.

Once the pit stop is over, the PET room is the next stop. I walk down the hall, seeing all kinds of signs like this:

And I thank my lucky stars that there are people who know more than I do about stuff like cancer, and radiation, and the need for hot restrooms, and how to read a PET scan.

As much as I am a silly girl who likes to have as much fun with the cancer as I possibly can... I'm so incredibly grateful for the staff at MD Anderson. From the receptionists to the nurses to the techs to the doctors... they are fabulous. I am still here because of them. ... Them AND their radioactive injections.

After it was all said and done, I went downstairs to get a muffin in the little cafe. (Best. Pumpkin. Muffins. E-ver.) and I tied a grey ribbon on the Tree of Hope for Mark. It's not much, but it was all I could do for him - for them - today.

As always, a day spent at MD Anderson is a day spent with a grateful heart. I am still tired, but I'm not anxious anymore. (What's done is done. Now all I need are results. And those will come soon enough.)

Life is good. ... Life is EVEN BETTER when you can take pics of stuff with biohazard warnings all over them.

This is my life, kids. ... And it is AWESOME!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Reason #253 why I am in love with Dr. H

So, today was a fun day. Spent the first 20 minutes or so at work in the copy room, huddled over the shred bin, talking (read: sobbing) on the phone with Julie about Mark and Rachel, while random employees came in to make copies, and then returned with tissues.

I love my life.

Good thing I had Ativan at work, because I popped two at once around 10:00, which dried me out and I seemed to be doing fairly well until about 3:00.

Which was exactly when my phone rang.

My sweet little scheduling girl was calling to let me know there had been a problem with my insurance approval and we needed to reschedule my PET.

Insert deep, ugly, raspy sigh here...

Why? Why, I asked, did it not get approved? And how had it happened AGAIN that we didn't know until the day before the scan that the approval didn't come through? ... I told her that I knew she was just the one stuck making the call, and I wasn't mad at her, but I needed to know why/how this kept happening because this was not okay. That I am not okay, and I need this scan now.

Poor little thing. She was not expecting me to have a high-speed-come-apart. (Clearly.) She asked if she could put me on hold... and then came back about five minutes later to tell me she didn't want to keep me on hold, but she would do what she could to work it out to get me scheduled for a PET Friday morning, and a followup Friday afternoon.

Not best case scenario, but... it's better than waiting a week. So, whatever.

About 30 minutes later, my phone rang again. She was all apologies for the false alarm. My scan is back on for tomorrow morning. She talked to scheduling, and it was too late to make any phone calls. She wasn't sure what to do, so she walked back to Dr. Homsi's office and explained the situation to him. She said, "He picked up the phone and called the insurance company himself. He gave them hell... and they approved it."

As per the scheduler, I owe this appointment to my good doctor doing verbal battle with the insurance company. Again. (I hate that he has to call to get me approved for a routine scan, but I looooove that he does call and he does get me approved. Dr. Homsi is the man!) She gave all the credit for this getting worked out to Homsi, and said, "You'll have to give him a hug when you see him, because this was all him."

I said "Oh, I'd give that man a whole heck of a lot more than a hug... if he'd just let me near him." She laughed out loud. I may or may not have double dog dared her to tell him I said that. (She knows that I'm ridiculous flirty with him, and said she wished she could come in to the room and listen to our conversation.)

Friday's appointment should be fun. (Who's kidding who? They ALWAYS are!)

As for me and my house, we are just so (super, duper, incredibly) grateful that tomorrow is still scan day. I need this week to be over. I need this PET done, I need results. I need them this week.

The lack of sleep and general pain about my bellybutton is getting to be too much. Tonight, I went to a movie with a group of friends, and then spent a good 45 minutes after the movie, talking to a friend while I literally soaked his shirt with my tears. ... And wiped my own boogers off with my sweater. (I tried to keep the tears on his clothes and the boogies on mine - but I'm not sure if I was 100% successful.) I am tired of being tired. I am tired of wondering if this is only a hernia, or all kinds of bowels gone wrong. Or worse. I am tired of being on the verge of tears at all moments of every day. ... In short, I am tired.

And, thanks to my blessed Dr. H, because he is exactly the kind of doctor who'll pick up a phone and give an insurance company hell... the end is in sight. This is why I love him. (The dreamy accent and fabulous looks are some perks, to be sure, but at the end of the day... he is a doctor and I am his patient - and he makes sure I get what I need. And I love him for that more than I'll ever love him for looking good in a lab coat . .... Which, btw, he can rock like none other..)

So, tomorrow's the day that I get injected with radiation and they take colorful pics of my innards. Friday, I'll get the results. ... Be looking forward to that!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Worst. Scan. Week. Ever.

I'm nauseated.

I'm not sure why.

The possibilities are endless, really: I could have a touch of the flu. I may have OD'd (sp?) on theater popcorn for dinner. It could be that I suffered through Captain Phillips, and came out of it with a whole lot of motion sickness. (And don't even get me started on the blood. Ewh.)

Also, it could be a serious lack of sleep.

Oh, and the anxiety.

I hate scan week. I hate it so badly. ... I hate it in a way that I hope no one single person I love will ever have to hate anything.

And this week's been more anxiety/emotion-riddled than usual.

My cousin Mark isn't doing so well - and that bums me out. Big time.

Like I told my mom tonight, I'd be a mess if all I had to deal with was scan week. I'd also be a mess if all I had to deal with was the emotional fallout of reading update emails from my sweet cousin Rachel. ... But, as luck would have it, they're both happening at the same time.

So, I want to throw up. (So much so that I don't even want to eat Oreos. That's serious, kids. Real, real, serious.)

Friday cannot come soon enough.

The End.

Monday, December 2, 2013

'Tis the season

You guys know how much I love Oreos, right? (And, if you don't... SHAME ON YOU for not having paid attention when I had to create a food rule specific to double-stuffed Oreos earlier this year.)

I love them, man.

I love them... A LOT

I mean, so much.

But if there is one thing that I do love more than double-stuffed Oreos, that thing would be... CANDY CANE DOUBLE-STUFFED OREOS:



They are SO good!

(Like, so good that I may or may not have eaten half the package since I opened them. Less than 24 hours ago. ... And I spent a good 9 hours out of the house today for work, and I got 8 hours of sleep last night. Do the math. That's a lot of Oreos in not a lot of hours.)

If you are a fellow lover of all things mint-chocolate, get thyself to the store and get a package of these bad boys! (Maybe two.)

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 29, 2013

What's in a name, anyway?

As I sit here, watching White Christmas, I am reminded of Betty and Judy Haynes.

The kittens. Not the fictional sisters from the movie.

That's right. We had cats named Betty and Judy Haynes. (They were sisters. As in, literal sisters (get it?) in the same litter of kittens and we ended up keeping them.)

Who names their pets after Christmas movie characters? We do!

Other crazy pet names: Arizona (though we didn't actually name him that, we inherited him from a couple hippies and he was already christened) Josephina (originally named Jose, but then he turned up pregnant and we had to rename her to something gender-appropriate). And who could forget *Beavis and Not-Beavis? 

*Beavis and Not-Beavis were not actually OUR pets. (As you may have guessed.) Judy did not like any kind of strong language, esp the kind of strong language that would be implied by naming one cat Beavis and the other one... something other than Beavis, that also started with a B. (Children of the 90's, you get the reference, I am sure.) Beavis and Not-Beavis liked the eats better at our house, so they moved in when they were teenager-cats. I'm pretty sure Not-Beavis had a litter of kittens at the same time as Kitty and Josephina. ... As I recall, there were 17 kittens living on our patio that summer. (No wonder Josephina was always trying to find a way into the house, stooping so low as to rip a hole in the screen and try to smuggle her young in through the window in the family room. Too bad we typically kept that actual window closed and she'd invariably get stuck between the screen and the glass, howling through her mouth full of kitten, begging to be let in. To no avail. Poor sap.) 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll!

On this day, I am (once again) overwhelmed with how very many blessings, how very much LOVE, I have in my life. Thank you. Thank you, all. For everything.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Testing positive

So, I heard from my doctor's office with the results on Henry. She said, and I quote, "We received your results. You test positive for a hernia."

Something about the way that news was delivered makes me laugh out loud. Who'd have ever thought one could "test positive" for a hernia? I love it!

Now, her original advice was to get the ultrasound done and then make an appointment with a general surgeon. That wouldn't be a problem, per se. I happen to have a general surgeon (the one she suggested, lo those many years ago when Darth Vader was discovered), but with it being this close to my PET... well, I'd rather wait and get the opinions of my swell docs at MD Anderson before I go scheduling any consults with other surgeons. So, I did what any self-respecting patient with an entire battery of doctors at her disposal... and I asked both SMIL and the doctor's office to send copies of the ultrasound to my beloved.

And then I scripted the following email to let him know it was coming:

Dear Dr. H,

I just wanted to give you a heads up that you should be getting a special delivery from SMIL this week. I'd had a cough for, oh... like a month (read: too dang long), so I went to my primary care doctor a couple weeks ago and walked out with both a prescription for a Z-pack and an order for an abdominal ultrasound. (I was pretty sure I was developing a hernia before I started coughing in October. But the coughing made it worse. So (SO!) much worse.)

I had an ultrasound last Thursday, and had a call from my doctor's office to confirm I am "positive for a hernia" on Friday afternoon.

My doc is advising that I contact a general surgeon and schedule a consult for surgery to correct the hernia. Before I call my old general surgeon (love Dr. Hyde like I do), I would rather wait for the results of my PET scan, to make sure there's nothing else going on. I figure, if I need anything more than hernia repair, Gimbel is my man. (Also, since he is the last doc who opened me up, I'm not about to schedule a surgery with anyone else without his go-ahead.)

Oh, and I like to email you. ;-)

You may receive duplicates, from both SMIL and Dr. Gibson's office. (Because I am the queen of overkill - you may have noticed - I asked both offices to forward them to you.) ... I just wanted to let you know that they were coming your way, and why.

I hope you have a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving holiday this week. I'll see you on Dec 6th.

- Laurie

You can imagine my surprise and delight to receive the following response from my beloved H this afternoon:

I am letting Dr Gimbel know about this

Lets wait to see what your PET shows

i will see you on the 6th

Happy Thanksgiving to you too


Did you see how he signed with his initials, instead of his whole (official) name? ... It's pretty intimate, right? ... Yeah, I thought so, too. (Esp since he took the time to spell out G's whole name.) I'm pretty sure we're getting serious.

Or he's trying to get me to break up with him, and that's why there's not one piece of punctuation in his entire email.

Tomato/tomahto. (He's gonna have to try harder than that if he wants to shake me. I happen to know that English is, like, his fifth language or something. If I'm gonna forgive anyone a lack of punctuation, it's gonna be H! Please.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

You mess with the bull, you get the horns.

Hands down, the best pet we ever had was Kitty. (Aka: Purrs and/or Mama Z)

She "followed" Tyler home from school when he was in kindergarten. (Like cats follow people, but whatever.) She was a big kitten - what my mom likes to call "a teenager cat" - when she came to us, and she stayed until she died. I don't remember how old she was, but she was oooooold. Like, toothless-wonder old. But she was sweet until the bitter end. We loved her. We ALL did.

This is a pic of Kitty that I snapped when I was in high school, I think, when she was in her prime.

She was a beautiful creature, wasn't she? So soft, so fluffy, so sweet. ... Unless you messed with her babies, and then she was a holy terror.

One fine summer day, the Curt brothers came to play, with their dog in tow. The pooch followed Jared into the backyard and onto the patio. Kitty had a relatively new litter of kittens in a box under the window, and she was lying in the box with her babies when the dog came snooping along.

Jared looked over at the animals and said, "Your cat better watch out". Kirk looked right back at him, and said (if I remember right), "I wouldn't worry about her."

Just about then, the dog got too close to the box, and Kitty came barreling out at him. She slashed him across his nose, and as he buckled and starting to cry, she launched herself onto his back and dug in for a long, hard, ride.

Poor Jared didn't know what to do, except cry "Get her off of him!". We all stood by and laughed as our fluffy little Kitty brought a Queensland Heeler to his knees.

I'm pretty sure that dog never came in our yard again. Jared did, sure. But not his dog. ... Still makes me laugh out loud.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


So, I got Henry's picture taken this morning. He's getting pretty big. The ultrasound tech talked me through what I was seeing on the screen (as much as she legally could, anyway... the true report has to come from the radiologist after looking at the films) and at the end she drew a line on the screen from one corner of Henry to the other.

Five centimeters, kids.

That's roughly as much as I lost of my diaphragm last summer. (Read: A lot. AKA: Henry's a growing boy.)

She wouldn't let me take any pics of the screen (you know I always want to do that), which was sort of a bummer. Hopefully, when my doctor gets the results and has me come in for the official lowdown, she'll let me snap some pics of m'boy.

Because my sweet doc is on a snail mail delivery system (why they don't email, I do not know), it'll take 3 days or so to get the results. ... Hopefully, by Wednesday of next week. We'll see.

In the meanwhile, I'll continue to lie down a lot. Because that doesn't hurt.

Interesting sidenote: I stood through the entire ultrasound. Crazy, right? I've never done THAT before! Also, I was on a total fast. No food or liquid for 6 hours prior to the ultrasound. I've always had to drink, like, two 32 oz sodas bottles of water prior to lying down on a bed while they pushed a rolly ball around on my tummy. It made sense, once she explained it to me (the hernia bulges more when I'm standing - when I lie down, it sort of disappears into the mass of squish that is my tummy - so she'd get better pics of the little dude if I was on my feet), but still... interesting, no?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christmas PSA

Okay, so... I made an executive decision (not sure why I'm calling it that, since I live in a household of one, but whatever) regarding the purchasing of Christmas presents this year:

I'm not doing it.

You heard me. I'm not buying Christmas presents this year.

This is why:

1. I have no children to disappoint in the gift-giving department
2. I'm paying for an ultrasound tomorrow, and a PET scan in two weeks (the downside of not having had surgery in 2013 is that I have yet to meet my out-of-pocket maximum, so I'm still paying 10% on my scans)
3. I'm too tired to go shopping after work, and the crowds in the stores on the weekend make me nervous
4. All my siblings, cousins and friends are grown ups and will understand points 2 and 3

I may send cards, but that's a big, fat, maybe.

That is all. Just wanted to give everyone a heads up.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming/blog-stalking.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I actually wrote a talk!

Sort of. (Not really.)

I can't remember if I talked about this on ye olde blog. ... I know I did on the facebook, but I can't remember if I ever mentioned it here. (Don't ever get old. Or, if you do, don't lose your memory like I have. It's not fun.) ... Anyway, I was asked to speak at the Single Adult 3rd Sunday fireside this month. (We all know that I am a public speaking junkie. We also know that I will NEVER pass up an opportunity to speak to a group of single adults, because I am what we in the industry like to call a "shameless self promoter". I will get the attention of a tall man just about any way I can, and if that means I need to get up and talk about my history with the cancer, then... so be it.) I had been asked to share some of my experience with the cancer, and speak with an overall theme of gratitude.

Check and check. Those are, pretty much, my favorite things to talk about. E-ver.

And I did something totally out of character and I wrote a talk. (Not really. More like, I made a list. Or, rather, a series of lists. We all know that I love to make lists!) First I gave some details with the initial diagnosis and the history of the surgeries... and then, in the last 15 minutes or so, I shared the following:

What I've lost:

- A kidney, my spleen, a foot of my colon and 5 cm of my diaphragm.
- My immune system.
- A ton of weight. (Most of which I've gained back, but whatever. I lost it at one point, so I'm counting it here.)
- The ability to digest bell peppers, onions, garlic and spaghetti sauce.
- The will to hold a grudge, and/or the desire throw a fit when things don't go the way I wanted them to.

What I've learned:

- Where the retroperitoneum is AND how to spell it.
- That having your spleen removed is a splenectomy, but having a kidney removed is a nephrectomy. (I'm not sure why this is. Neither Merriam-Webster nor can give me a satisfactory answer as to the etymology of the word "nephrectomy". Apparently, it started showing up in medical journals between 1875-1880, with no notes as to the actual origin of the word. ... Argh.)
- All manner of information on stool softeners and laxatives: which brands work best, and how often to take them (and in what combinations) to offset the effects of narcotics.
- How to walk again. Three times.
- That more people remember me, love me, and are genuinely interested in my life than I ever could have imagined.

What I know:

- The Lord has a plan, for all of us. He has a great, wide, plan for all of His children, sure. But He also knows us as individuals, and has a specific plan that was custom-made for each one of us, to get us where He wants us to be.
- Me getting cancer, three times, was part of the plan. I know this, because with each successive diagnosis, I was changed. There were things I learned the first time around that blew my freaking mind: not the least of which is I learned what my body could go through, and still come out okay. (Not awesome, but okay.) With my second tumor, I gained a whole new appreciation for the blessings of the priesthood my life. That second round clarified how important the gospel is to me, how important family relationships and friendship really are, and it helped me learn not to take my life - or anyone in it - for granted.  And the third time around... well, there aren't words (and there isn't time) to go into everything I learned that time, so I'll narrow it down to my three biggest lessons learned in the calendar year of 2012: Love is the most powerful force on earth, prayer is real, and miracles happen.
- I know the Lord loves me. I know that He is aware of what happens in my life. I know that, even when (especially when) things are really hard, He takes care of me. I know that He has placed people in my sphere who bless and enrich my life in ways that I cannot begin to number.
- Again, I know the Lord has a plan. For each of us, He has a plan. And the cancer was part of His plan for my life. I know that. I know it as sure as I know that 1/3 of the hairs on my head are grey because of said cancer. Why I had to get sick, I may never know, but what I do know is that I would never give it back. The sleepless nights, the fear, the anxiety, the pain that I cannot begin to describe, the nerve damage and the scar tissue and the knowledge that I'll have scans for the rest of my life... I wouldn't give any of that back, because while cancer was really (REALLY) hard, it was also incredibly awesome, because it taught me about faith and life and love.
- And the most incredible thing about knowing that the Lord knows me, loves me, and has a plan for me is knowing that He also knows, loves, and has a plan for every other single person on the planet.

I testify that there is a plan, even a plan of happiness. Men are that they might have joy. Even in the midst of our trials - in the middle of the deep, dark night - the Lord knows who we are and He knows what we need. It is my belief that He wants us to be happy, to find the joy in the every day, and to celebrate every good thing in our lives.

* Yup, I talked about poop. From the pulpit. I even said the word "poop". Because it's Whitney's birthday - and because I could. (How often does an opportunity to say the phrase "poop from the pulpit" come up? I mean... I had to snatch that one right up.)

* I had no less than three people (a biology teacher, a doctor AND some sweet soul with an iPad) inform me that the word nephrectomy comes from nephrons. Apparently, that's what kidneys are made of. ... Or something like that. (I stop listening as soon as medical talk gets too graphic. Don't judge. It's a coping mechanism.)

* I had several people come up and tell me that they hadn't planned on coming, but felt like they needed to... and they were so glad they did, because that talk was for them: a cancer patient (breast cancer) and a man who's getting ready to undergo his fourth abdominal surgery in less than a year among them. That is literally what I prayed for, people - that I would say would people would need to hear. (Oh, and that I'd be funny and they would laugh. Because I so didn't want to be a boring fireside speaker. ... It happens. Sort of a lot.)

Man alive, I enjoy public speaking. But beyond the act of standing in front of a room full of people and knowing that I can make them laugh and/or cry, I love the personal connection that comes of knowing that people really heard what you had to say. I love people. I love them SO much! I'm so-so-so grateful for my life, for all of the blessings and all of the awesomeness that I enjoy on a daily basis. And tonight, I'm grateful that I had an opportunity to talk about so many of the things I am grateful for. ... If I could find a way to do this for a living, I'd do it in a heartbeat. I really would. But for now, I'll just go to bed happy that I was able to speak tonight, because I really do love it - so much.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Preserving a moment for children who are not my posterity

I have a couple kids in my life (not mine - don't worry, you haven't missed any big news on the child-bearing front) who have a deep and abiding love for (it may even be safe to use the term "obsession with") my moles.

Meg and Sally, I'm talking to you.

I accidentally took this totally serious selfie the other day, and was astonished at:

A) How green my eyes were that day  ... For those of you who've ever been wont to say that my eyes are brown: WRONG. They are hazel. Obviously.


B) Good heavens, I have a lot of flesh-colored moles on the left side of my face!

So much for me thinking those sweet little weirdos were... well, for lack of a better word, weirdos... for how they like to talk about/touch the many (MANY) moles on my face/neck/arms/etc. I am pretty bumpy, after all.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My secret pet

I know this is going to be really hard to imagine, but by the time I was in 6th grade, I was quite a character. (And no, this week's story won't involve any allusion to my checkered past. ... Except for that last sentence, anyway. ... So don't even ask.)

We hadn't had any family pets since the chickens of the summer before. (Not actual pets, btw.) And, sadly, the pet we'd had before that was my sweet dog Harvey (who we had to let go to another home because he got out of our yard and ate some of Pearl's chickens). And I was, like, in third grade when the Harvey/chicken fiasco went down.

What I'm saying is, it had been A LONG TIME since we'd had a pet. And, in an effort to change that, I started making regular visits to the feed store in downtown Taylor. (Just cracked myself up with that, btw. There is no "downtown Taylor".)

I weighed my options. You know: horses, cows, chickens and ducks. (That's basically what they market towards in a feed store.) We didn't have the land for a horse or a cow, and I'd already found out that I didn't know how to tell the sex of a chicken (or four). So, really, a duckling was my best bet.

I made friends with the dude who worked the counter and asked him how to tell which ducks were boys and which were girls. Turns out, it's pretty easy with ducks. Something about the feathers... I don't remember.

All I knew was that I wanted a boy Mallard (because they're prettier when they grow up), so once the ducklings were old enough to sell (they'd hatched them right there in the store, under an incubator light!), I put on my winter coat (it was Spring) and rode my bike to the feed store. (Remind me sometime to tell you about my bike. I still get annoyed, thinking about that stupid thing. My parents told me I could have a new bike, and I could pick out whatever I wanted. ... As long as it was a men's bike in a gender-neutral color, so my brothers could ride it, too. Yeah, that sounds EXACTLY like what a pre-teen girl would pick for herself, doesn't it? Twenty-seven years later, and I still roll my eyes whenever I think about that gray men's style 10-speed. Grrr.)

Anyhoo, I rode my bike to the feed store and I walked out with the cutest little Mallard duckling and as much duck feed as I could buy with change from a $10. Because I didn't have a basket on the front of my bike (like most girls, who had proper bicycles with banana seats), my only option was to balance a grocery-sized brown paper bag FULL of feed on the handlebars as I rode home, with my new little duck friend in my coat pocket.

You read me right.

I was toting my new little duckling inside my coat pocket. (It was the sweetest coat ever. Had a big three color chevron stripe across the chest, and there were zippers on the pockets. Welcome to the late 80's, ladies and gentlemen. Those were good times.)

By the time I got home, I realized that maybe I shouldn't spring my duck on my parents right away. (The upside of a duck v. a chicken is that a duck's bill is flat and wide - no poking of any brothers in the eyeball. But still, I decided I'd keep him my little secret for a while.)

I walked in through the front door, made a beeline for my room, and started to make a my little duck a home in the top drawer of my dresser.

That's right.

I said... I. Kept. Him. In. The. Top. Drawer. Of. My. Dresser.

I cleared out the drawer, and put some newspaper down. Then, I poured in some duck feed and got the little dude a water bowl, and closed the drawer with about 1/2 inch to spare (so he wouldn't suffocate) and went and joined the family for dinner.

For two weeks, I kept that duck hidden in my closet, in the top drawer my dresser. I'd come home from school, wear my jacket back to my bedroom, and take my little buddy out of his drawer and shove him into my right pocket. I'd zip him in (both to keep his fuzzy head hidden and to muffle the quacking) and I'd take him out to the side yard (where there were very few windows) and let him run around for half an hour or so. Then I zip him back up, and go back into the house and make a beeline to the hall bathroom, where I'd run him a sinkful of water and let him swim and splash for a while. After he'd had his play time, I'd take him back to my room. I'd let him walk around while I changed the newspaper and got him some new food and water, and then I'd put him away and go watch Gilligan's Island or something, like a normal kid.

Kirk knew about him (he'd followed me outside once, early on), but he knew that he was a secret, so he never talked to me about the duck unless we were totally alone.

On the last day I had him, Spencer followed us outside and got SO excited about our new pet that he went right in and told Mom.

Argh. Brothers.

Mom took the duck back to the feed store that very afternoon, and gave them some sob story about how her daughter had bought a duck without her permission (and/or knowledge) and she needed to return it. They took the duckling back, and even gave her a refund! (How nice are they?) But they wouldn't take the feed, so she brought it home and told me I'd need to get rid of the duck food, somehow. ... So I told her that I would, and promptly stuffed it onto the top shelf of my closet. Where it stayed until I graduated from high school and cleaned my room out because I was moving to St. George.

True story.

I guess it was just as well. I mean, the duck was getting too big to stuff into my coat pocket. He was also getting too big for the dresser drawer. (He couldn't really stand in there anymore.) And he was JUST ABOUT to have to upgrade to taking a daily swim in the bathtub, which would have been a hassle. (And I don't even want to think about how much poop I'd have had to deal with once he got officially grown up.) But he was super cute. And he was an awesome (secret) pet. Unlike the chicken rooster fiasco of 1984, I've never regretted the duckling. Not even once. (Note: I'm not saying that I'd do it again, but I've never regretted it.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The (actual) scoop

Remember how, yesterday, I posted that I had no information as to my next scan?

Well, guess what? Today, I do!

MD called and my PET will be Dec 5th. I'll get the results on Dec 6th. ... Be looking forward to that.

In the meanwhile, I made an appt with SMIL to get Henry's picture taken. I'll have an abdominal ultrasound next Thursday, and it'll take about a week to get the results. Factoring Thanksgiving weekend in, my guess is that I'll get pix of Henry the beginning of the first week of December - just in time to share them with my beloved Dr. H when I see him on the 6th.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The scoop (or lack thereof)

I've had no less than three people ask - in the last week - when my next scan is.

The answer, I am sorry to say, is "I don't know".

My last scan was the first week of June. As I am now a one-kidneyed wonder whose system can't handle the tracer in a CT, I am doomed to the fate of the PET being the only scan I can have. Sadly, PETs cost about three times as much as a CT, and insurance is less likely to approve a PET every quarter. Soooo... I am now on the every six months plan v. the every three months plan. I don't love it, but hey... I've gone a year tumor-free now, which helps. Also, I don't really have a choice.

This is very much an "it is what it is" situation, and I'm doing the best I can to wait it out.

Some days - most days - I'm fine with it. Every once in a while, I have an anxious/worried day, but for the most part, I'm fine.

As soon as I know more, I'll share the info.

Until then, I'm doing my level best to enjoy life and not read too much into my growing stomach. (It helps to have had a medical professional support my theory that the main issue with the bulge in my belly is a hernia.)

Viva la sweater season!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Two of a kind

I made soup this weekend.

It was delish.

I mean, I would have rather had Ken and Myra still living around the corner, so My could chop up the veggies and actually make it for me (why does food always taste better when someone else makes it?), but, alas... The Johnsons live in a far off land and I am unable to mooch their food anymore. It's a tragedy. Oh, well. At least I have her recipe. And I will give it to you, because this soup is fabulous. The broth has the most incredible flavor, and the lentils soak up all the savory goodness. To me, this soup screams "IT'S FALL!". And I love foods that scream "FALL!" at me. ... Obviously.

But the reason for this particular post (in addition to sharing the recipe, because I freaking LOVE this soup and think everyone should have the deliciousness that is lentil soup at their disposal) is that my bag of lentils and I are (okay, were) twin souls.

Would you look at that? My little bag o' legumes had a hernia. Right smack in the middle of him.

Just. Like. Me.

Much like the skin around my bellybutton has thinned (so much so that I can hear AND feel the gurgles and pops as my stomach goes through the drama of digesting my late night snack), the plastic in the middle of the bag  had thinned to the point that there were a few little guys that looked like they were about to pop right through.

Like I said, twin souls. ... Poor little bag. I felt your pain, dude. ... Too bad the only cure for you was to tear you open and make soup out of you. (I can only hope my herniated midsection doesn't share that fate. #Gruesome.)

Here's My's recipe. It's fabulous. Also, it makes A TON of soup. (Says the woman who halved the recipe and still has three GIANT tupperwares full of leftovers in her fridge.)


Myra's Lentil Soup

equal amounts of carrots, celery, and onion chopped fine (I chop about the same amount equaling two large onions each)
1/4 c. - 1/2 c. olive oil
minced garlic (about 3-5 cloves)
Italian sausage (one per person minimum)
1 large can of tomatoes
Lentils (1-2 bags)
Broth cube (or two)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute carrots, celery, onion, and garlic in the olive oil in a pan.
Add sausage to mixture (removing skin and cut to small pieces) and cook through
Add the tomatoes to the mixture and simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes.
Add lentils, broth cube, salt and pepper. I usually also add water near to the top (but that depends how soupish you want the soup).
Let it simmer for 45 minutes on low (I'm guessing here!)

My friend Henry

Kids, I have a new friend. His name is Henry.

Henry is a hernia. And, frankly, is more of a frenemy than a friend. ... But I can't shake him, so I determined to make friends with him (as much as one can make friends with a hernia). To that end, I have given him a name and I'm making an effort to be better behaved, as I've learned that when I am good to Henry, he is better to me. (Read: No more even TRYING to lift anything even REMOTELY heavy. Also, no more going on 2 mile walks. While I did prove to myself that I can walk more than a mile, I also learned that my guts hate me when I make myself stand and be mobile for an hour. ... Yes, it takes me an hour to walk two miles. Don't judge.)

I've had a gut feeling (pun intended) that Henry was coming since mid-June, but he didn't really pop out and make himself known until September.

Over the summer, I'd occasionally have the sensation that my guts were trying to push out through my bellybutton. That was awesome.

Come the first week of September, the pain changed (read: became more constant) and I noticed that, when I had my hand over my belly button, I could feel my stomach gurgling. (That actually WAS awesome. In a creepy sort of way.) Oh, and the area formerly known as my bellybutton started changing. Fast.

On the first Saturday of October, I sat down on my couch and put my hand over my bellybutton and realized... I felt something. Something more than bubbles popping. I felt something hard. Not tumor hard, mind you. More like something-has-broken-loose-inside-my-body hard. So I promptly walked into my bathroom and took a picture. Because I like to document things. And also because I wanted to make sure it really DID look like a hernia from the other side of the camera.

And the verdict was... Yes. Yes, it did.

I apologize to all those readers with weak stomachs and will warn those who have NO DESIRE to see my grody, bumpy, lumpy, scarred and grossly mis-shapen belly (Aunt Cindy, I'm talking to you) that you may want to scroll down quickly so you'll miss the carnage that is up close and  personal pics of my body.

I give you: my bellybutton in October:

And then I turned the camera, so I could get a shot of the bulbous lump at the bottom:


No wonder I felt bruised and battered. I WAS! ... From the inside out. Awesome. (By which I mean: Not actually awesome.)

Less than a week after these pics were taken, I started coughing. Hard. I started coughing hard. ... At first, I thought it was allergies. But then I left the great state of Arizona and headed to California for a baking retreat - and I took my cough with me. And then I brought it home, and continued to cough in Arizona.

The cough? It has not helped my relationship with Henry. ... For a week there, I thought it might have been helping. The bulbousness was spreading out, and I was thinking that all that accidental exercise was strengthening my stomach muscles and all would be well in the world. ... And then I realized that my abdominal pain was changing. It was becoming stronger and more constant, and I was having to sneeze and/or cough with one hand over my mouth/nose, and the other pressing down on my bellybutton (such as it is), to the extent that, if I only had one hand available, I needed that hand for my stomach. I can't blow my nose without pushing in on my bellybutton, and it's getting harder to stand up and roll over.

Shoot. Me. Now.

It's been four weeks, and I've been fighting different versions of that same cold the whole time, so I went to the doctor on Friday. (My family medicine doc, not my beloved Dr. H.) I came home with a fist full of new prescriptions, as well as the assurance that this is, indeed, a hernia.

I have an order to have an abdominal ultrasound (that'll be fun - since we all know that I have a weak bladder in the best of circumstances, and having someone push a rolly ball around on your stomach when you're full of water is the opposite of "the best of circumstances"). Her thoughts are that the reason my stomach has changed is that the coughing has enlarged the hernia, and I'll need surgery. Again.

Here's a more recent shot (again, Syd,  look away):

Oh, and look! You can see one of the tats in this pic. You lucky dogs...

You can't really see the difference between shot 1 and shot 2, but trust me... it's there. The bump is both bigger and flatter at the same time. I don't often have the bruised feeling that I did last month. The bruised sensation has been replaced by an ache that's sometimes accompanied by stabbing pain. I'm torn as to which pain was easier. It's sort of a toss up.

What I've learned from Henry is that life is easier when I'm easier on my body. Sooooo... so much for the plans I had to walk a mile for every episode of new fall tv I was allowed to watch. My couch, my books, Netflix, Hulu and I are fast friends again.

It's a good thing I actually enjoy staying home in a reclined position. So many people I know would be bored out of their minds. I'm lucky that I was blessed with the ability to sit still and enjoy it. Seriously. Lucky.